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History of Groundwater Development in Thailand

History of Groundwater Development in Thailand

There is no evidence indicating when groundwater exploitation was first occurred in Thailand as most ancient human settlements were situated on the flat plain near surface water sources. In the past, surface water was abundant for domestic water supply and agriculture for all year-round including summer when there was no rain. However, in some areas where surface water sources were insufficient, locals excavated a square pond deep enough to reach the water table in order to store water for drought period. This practice was later perceived as shallow groundwater development in Thailand.


Later on, Thailand had improved a national public health by implementing the policythat every household has to install a septic tankAs a result, shallow groundwater sources were deteriorated because of the contamination ofhuman excrement People then had to collect water from wells in the paddy field which was far away from the septic tanks
Drilling of deep groundwater wells in Thailand

The first deep groundwater well was installed by Mr. Sengyang Sei Aow, the owner of Aow Yong Sun Hud, Ltd., at the hospital in China town, Bangkok. The 120-meter-deep well was drilled by bamboo drill rod imported from China. This drilling method was used to develop groundwater supply in Thailand for nearly 60 years.


The King Rama V established a surface water supply system in Bangkok in order to meet increasing water demands as population growth and urban expansion. Groundwater abstraction, therefore, was to support surface water supply.


The Department of Corrections hired a foreign private company to install the boreholes by a steam-powered-drilling machine at various prisons nationwide.


The Department of Public Works imported E-worth drilling machine and Combination drilling machine. They also hired the German engineer, Mr. Gabrial, to install boreholes for municipals’ water supply and sanitation. The project to install regional groundwater wells for water supply was also established.


The Bangkok Waterwork, Ltd. imported reverse rotary drilling machines from England to drill 8 inches diameter boreholes for domestic water supply for the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority in Bangkok and its vicinities. Since then, groundwater has been only abstracted to support water supply and industrial uses. There were no drilling machines to drill 2-6 inches diameter boreholes for a small-scale groundwater development for household usage. Rotary rigs were then invented to promote those households’ need.


History of Groundwater Division


The Pubic Health Department installed boreholes in four provinces, but only 13% were successfully completed due to the lack of hydrogeological knowledge and data.


The Department of Metal Works started the geological survey in the Northeast of Thailand to help solve water scarcity. The study showed that reservoirs and shallow wells are less effective for keeping water for drought relief. This region might have stored sufficient groundwater for drought relief.


A severe drought in the Northeastern of Thailand had raised the governmental attention. Therefore, the international collaboration for the groundwater exploration project between Thailand and the United States of America was established, supported by the Special Technical and Economic Mission.
Mr. Phillip E. Lamoreaux, an expert of hydrogeology from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and other experts were invited to help the groundwater exploration in the Northeastern region during October – December. It found that its geology had great potential for groundwater supply. Moreover, the groundwater committee was assigned by the cabinet to supervise the groundwater survey and exploration project.


The International Cooperation Administration (ICA) hired the American private companies to accelerate the groundwater survey. Hand pumps were installed for domestic uses, and diesel driven pumps were installed for local water supply. Moreover, the National Groundwater Committee was established to survey groundwater nationwide.


Ten drilling machines were used for national groundwater exploration and development. The Department of Metal Works was the main agency to conduct the groundwater survey using the national budget.


The Department of Metal Works changed to the Department of Mineral Resources, under the Ministry of National Development. New Groundwater Committee was created to support groundwater exploration and survey in the western and northern parts of Thailand.


The Department of Mineral Resources established the Groundwater Division. Its duty was to survey and explore groundwater nationwide. Since the international collaboration with the US, the hydrogeological data and information in Thailand improved, and the Hydrogeological Map of Northeastern Thailand at the scale of 1: 750,000 was created. Moreover, the knowledge of groundwater conservation, groundwater quality analysis, and groundwater control was shared to local authorities. After the governmental reform in 1972, the Department of Mineral Resources was under the Ministry of Industry.


Groundwater Act was enforced to control groundwater licensing, groundwater utilization and water infiltration to the wells in order to protect groundwater quantity and quality in Bangkok and its vicinities. In 1994, Groundwater Act became enforced throughout Thailand.


Groundwater Division was promoted to the Department of Groundwater Resources under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.